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The Fifth Quarter: Week 7 Rewind

Missouri v Georgia Getty Images

As is the case each and every season, each and every week, any omission below is not on purpose, it’s merely intentional.

WINNERS

Missouri: The Showed You State
Everybody who thought that, after Week 7 of the season, Missouri would be unbeaten and all alone in first place in the SEC East raise your hands.  Now, put ’em down as all y’all are lying.  Yet that’s exactly where Gary Pinkel‘s Tigers find themselves Sunday morning, sporting a spotless 6-0 record overall and an East-best 2-0 mark in SEC play thanks to their win over Georgia coupled with Florida’s loss to LSU.  Yes, Mizzou’s win came at the expense of the injury-ravaged Bulldogs, but it was huge for the Tigers regardless of the circumstances and how it’s couched as the win over No. 7 UGA was the program’s first against a Top-10 team on the road since dropping No. 9 Mississippi State in October of 1981.  Let’s not pop any SEC East champagne for Mizzou quite yet, however.  The next two weeks — without starting quarterback James Franklin — the Tigers will host Florida and South Carolina in back-to-back games that could very well determine the division’s representative in the SEC championship game.  And, no, I never thought I’d be typing that sentence in relation to Mizzou, especially after a debut season in the SEC that saw the Tigers win just two conference games (Kentucky, Tennessee).

Super Mariota… again
I’m fully aware of the fact that the Heisman is not handed out in the middle of October, but, dayum.  In six games this season, Marcus Mariota has thrown for 17 touchdowns, ran for another eight… and has thrown zero interceptions in 165 attempts.  And, as if tossing down the stiff-armed gauntlet, Mariota went out Saturday and had his finest performance of the season, all things considered.  Against a Washington defense that came into the game with Oregon ranked No. 3 nationally in passing efficiency defense, Mariota carved said defense to the tune of 24-of-31 passing for 366 yards and three touchdowns.  For good measure, he added 88 yards rushing and another score.  Again, they don’t hand out the Heisman at this time of the year.  The award does, though, have a front-runner and Mariota is decidedly that.

Texas-sized Big 12 leader
It goes without saying that Texas’ 16-point beatdown of Oklahoma in the Red River Shootout qualifies as a stunner, what with the Longhorns having lost the last two rivalry games by a combined total of 80 points… and how they’ve been mired in mediocrity the past few years… and how Mack Brown‘s tenure is seemingly coming to a close.  It’s when you step back and look at the bigger picture, though, that you get the biggest jolt.  The Longhorns are currently one of three Big 12 teams with no losses in conference play, and are tied atop the standings at 3-0 with Texas Tech.  Baylor, which looked unstoppable against the lightweights on its schedule, was positively beatable on the road against Kansas State in its first real test of the season, although the Bears survived to remain that third unbeaten Big 12 team at 2-0.  Did the Longhorns save their season — and Brown’s job — Saturday?  It’s still too early to tell, especially with games against Oklahoma State, Texas Tech and Baylor to close out the regular season still looming.  For now, though, the Golden Hat — and control of its own destiny in the Big 12’s race to the BCS — resides in Austin.

A Mannion’s man
Were it not for a three-point season-opening loss to Eastern Washington, Oregon State would very likely be a Twp-20 team at the moment.  And Sean Mannion might be getting the respect nationally he deserves.  Entering the game against Washington State Saturday night, the Beavers quarterback led the nation in passing yards per game (403.6) and passing touchdowns (21) through five games.  In his sixth game, Mannion did nothing but elevate his standing in both of those categories.  In helping OSU push its record to 5-1, Mannion passed for a season-high 493 yards and added four more touchdown passes as the Beavers cruised to a 52-24 win over Wazzu.  OSU, and thus Mannion, have yet to face a high-profile opponent, which has in large part led to the lack of recognition outside of Corvallis.  With games against Stanford (Oct. 26), Washington (Nov. 23) and the Civil War with Oregon (Nov. 29), Mannion will have plenty of opportunity to state his case nationally.  Provided he can rise to that level of competition, of course.

Brian FantanaBOB’s Big Ones
Bill O’Brien had already seen four missed field goals from the end of regulation through the first three overtimes against Michigan, including one off the foot of his own kicker.  Down by three and facing a fourth and one, O’Brien eschewed the field goal attempt that would’ve sent the game into a fifth overtime and instead grabbed his James Westfall and Doctor Kenneth Noisewater.  A Bill Belton three-yard run got the first down and, four plays later, Belton scooted across from two yards out to knock the Wolverines from the ranks of the unbeatens.  O’Brien should be applauded for both having the guts to make that call at that juncture and for his awareness of the energy that had been expended by his Nittany Lions creating a need to not extend the game.

Rebounding with a vengeance
Just 10 days ago, Travis Wilson had a six-pack of picks that was largely responsible for Utah’s seven-point loss to No. 11 UCLA.  Against No. 5 Stanford, the Utes quarterback went out and totally redeemed himself.  While he threw another interception, Wilson was otherwise outstanding, completing 23-of-34 passes for 234 yards and a pair of critical first-quarter touchdowns that put the unbeaten Cardinal on notice… and helped drop them from undefeated and controlling their own destiny to one of the myriad one-loss teams that will need help getting back in the national title hunt.  Redemption is an awe-inspiring thing, especially when it’s a college kid on the receiving end one game later against one of the best teams in the country.

Riding the Green Wave
Coming off a disastrous two-win 2012 season, there were some calling for the head of head coach Curtis Johnson after just one year at Tulane.  Nearly a year later, those same people are very likely singing Johnson’s praises.  You see, the Green Wave has won five of its first seven games this season, including a thrilling triple-overtime win over East Carolina Saturday evening.  It’s the first time since 2004 that Tulane has won more than four games in a single season, and the Green Wave still has five games remaining to win one game and become bowl eligible for the first time since 2002.  On top of all of that, Tulane is tied for the Conference USA West lead with Rice.  The individuals wanting Johnson gone last year may get their wish 12 months late; thanks to Tulane’s play, Johnson’s name will likely come up for various vacancies across the country in the coming months.

Army strongTerry Baggett , Donald Coleman
Yeah, I’ll go ahead and say it: Terry Baggett does more before 3 p.m. than most running backs do all season.  Or something like that.  In the Black Knights’ 50-25 win over Eastern Michigan, the junior rushed for 304 yards on just 18 carries and added four scores on the ground for good measure.  Baggett came into the matchup with 440 yards and two touchdowns in the first six games of the season.  The 304 yards are an academy record, part of which came on a 96-yard touchdown run.  In closing, go Baggett and go ‘Merica…

LOSERS

Nov. 7
That day on the football calendar was shaping up to be arguably the best and most important Thursday in college football history.  Oregon at Stanford and Oklahoma at Baylor had most prognosticators pointing to it during the preseason as the day where the chase for the BCS would really begin to take shape.  Now?  Not so much thanks to Oklahoma’s blowout loss to Texas and Stanford’s stunning loss on the road to Utah.  Those games will still be important, especially as it pertains to the respective conference races, but it has certainly lost a lot of luster as far as the national stage is concerned because of Saturday’s events.

Bears are human after all
Through the first four games of its season, Baylor was the darling of the national media.  Averaging a nation’s best 781 yards per game (Oregon was next at 630) and scoring 70-plus points a contest, the Bears were the shiny thing dangled in front of a giddy toddler.  Of course, those gaudy stats came against Wofford, Buffalo, Louisiana-Monroe and West Virginia.  In their first real test of the season against Kansas State?  The gaudy numbers dissipated, but the winning didn’t.  The Bears were held to season-lows in total offense (445 yards), rushing (114) and points (35), but still managed to go into always-tough Manhattan and escape back to Waco with a 10-point conference win over the Wildcats.  The Bears may have been exposed, and K-State may have provided a blueprint for future Big 12 opponents to at least slow down the high-powered attack, but they showed a resiliency they haven’t needed all season long.  And that might be more impressive than any of the video game-like numbers they had put up through the first one-third of the regular season.

South Carolina v ArkansasKarma indeed
Very shortly after Wisconsin’s controversial loss to Arizona State in mid-September, Jen Bielema, the wife of former UW and current Arkansas head coach Bret Bielema, tweeted “#karma” in the general direction of the Badgers and their fans.  While I’m certain it’s merely coincidence — or the “k” word — the Razorbacks, after winning their first three games pre-tweet, have now lost four straight since Mrs. Bielema typed out the five-letter word and sent it hurtling out into the Twittersphere.  Punctuating the losing streak was Saturday’s humbling 45-point loss to South Carolina, the third straight SEC loss for Bielema by a combined total of 77 points.  Strong with this one, the karma is.

The Lane Kiffin Error Era
If you wanted to sum up Lane Kiffin‘s time at USC, these five words would just about do it: “The players have hope now.”  Those were the words of USC athletic director Pat Haden, and they came shortly after the Trojans upended Arizona in the USC interim debut of Ed Orgeron.  It was far from pretty, but there was an exuberance, an excitement that had been lacking for years under Kiffin and, to be honest, under the weight of NCAA sanctions.  Pulling the plug on Kiffin’s tenure as head coach was seen as a necessary move.  And, as it turns out, it was a refreshing one for the entire program as well. “You should have been in the locker room before the game, I’ve never seen anything like it. Guys were having a blast,” Haden, again, said afterwards.  The win was one thing; the words coming from those in and around the football program were a damning indictment of everything that’s gone in in the Land of Troy the past three-plus seasons, even if it did humble the Arrogant One.

Airror Force
The Air Force football program has officially hit rock bottom.  Leading San Diego State by 14 with 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter Thursday night, the Falcons gave up 21 straight points in a 10-minute span to snatch defeat from the jaws of defeat.  The service academy is now 1-6, its worst start since going 1-6 to begin the 1993 season.  With an Oct. 26 game against Notre Dame on the horizon, the Falcons could very well be staring in the face of their worst start to a season since going 1-6-1 in 1980.

TOP 25 TOO-CLOSE-FOR-COMFORT
How ranked teams endured close shaves vs. unranked opponents

— No. 3 Clemson 24, Boston College 14: The Tigers needed 14 fourth-quarter points to avoid an infamous Clemsoning.  We’ll just chalk this up to looking ahead to the titanic matchup with Florida State next weekend and move on.

— No. 8 Louisville 24, Rutgers 10: Thanks to a pillowy soft schedule, the Cardinals need to take its opponents to the woodshed each and every time they step on the field.  That didn’t happen Thursday night, which has caused some to already write off the UofL’s BCS title game hopes.  While that’s debatable, the Cardinals will likely see themselves lose ground in the polls again this week.

Texas A&M v Mississippi— No. 9 Texas A&M 41, Ole Miss 38: In a wildly entertaining game, the Aggies needed a field goal as time expired to stay unbeaten on the road under Kevin Sumlin.  Of course, the win was due in large part to Johnny Football, who totaled 470 yards of total offense (346 passing, 124 rushing) in a performance that will keep him in the Heisman repeat mix.  That defense, though, is still an area of major concern and will likely bite the Aggies again at some point before the regular season ends.

— No. 15 Baylor 35, Kansas State 25: The Bears needed a real test and, after a hiccup up or two that nearly cost them an unblemished record.  the Waco Kids earned a passing grade.

— No. 20 Texas Tech 42, Iowa State 35:  The Red Raiders muddled through the first three quarters against the one-win Cyclones, tied at halftime and leading by just a touchdown entering the fourth.  Tech did, though, become the first bowl-eligible team in the Big 12 so they have that going for them, which is good.

— No. 23 Northern Illinois 27, Akron 20:  Hey, the one-win Zips nearly knocked off Michigan in the Big House earlier this year.  It happens.

— No. 24 Virginia Tech 19, Pittsburgh 9: I’m putting this game here solely to highlight the Hokies’ defense as Tech allowed the Panthers just 23 yards rushing on 26 carries.  All told, Pitt was only able to must 210 yards of offense against a team that’s quietly ripped off six straight wins since its 25-point loss to Alabama to open the season.

CFT TOP FIVE
A snapshot look at how my ballot would look Monday if I, ya know, had a real vote instead of a measly and meaningless preseason poll.

1. Alabama — After a scoreless first quarter against Kentucky, I very nearly dropped the Tide below Oregon.  Then the second quarter and on happened and my goodness did the Tide roll, putting up 668 yards of offense and 48 points in a 41-point throttling of the Wildcats. (Last week: No. 1)
Next up: vs. Arkansas

Oregon v Washington2. Oregon — Even with Alabama rolling (eventually) against a below-average Kentucky team, I was still (very) tempted to allow the Ducks to leapfrog the consensus No. 1 team in the country thanks to the virtuoso performance against arguably the best two-loss team in the country in Washington.  I couldn’t pull the trigger this week, but can’t promise a repeat if the Ducks continue mowing down the competition. (Last week: No. 2)
Next up: vs. Washington State

3. Clemson — Despite eking by a very average Boston College team in Clemson’s version of Death Valley, the Tigers are still a very good football team.  Get a huge win over you-know-how Saturday, and they’ll elbow themselves right into the Alabama-Oregon mix. (Last week: No. 3)
Next up: vs. No. 6 Florida State

4. Ohio State — The Buckeyes were on a bye, and may benefit somewhat in the polls thanks to Clemson’s sleepwalk against BC.  Northwestern getting throttled by Wisconsin and Michigan losing to Penn State, however, is very bad long-term for OSU. (Last week: No. 4)
Next up: vs. Iowa

5. Florida State — The Cardinal’s loss is the Seminoles’ gain.  A bye week for FSU allowed them to heal up for its Game of the Century against you-know-who Saturday. (Last week: unranked)
Next up: at No. 3 Clemson

(Dropped from the rankings: No. 5 Stanford)

HE SAID IT
“I do feel badly for Arkansas. That’s no fun getting your butt beat at home, homecoming and all that.” — Steve Spurrier, after South Carolina went into Fayetteville and spanked the Razorbacks 52-7.

HE SAID IT, THE SEQUEL
“We sit back and let y’all bash us and bash our coaches. … There comes a time when you put a chip on your shoulder.” — Texas quarterback Case McCoy.

HE SAID IT, THE THREEQUEL
“I’m looking forward to the next 30 minutes, because the first 30 minutes sucked.” — Pat Fitzgerald, after watching Northwestern fall behind Wisconsin 21-6 in the first half.  The next 30 minutes weren’t much better for the Wildcats as the final score ended up 35-6.

HE SAID IT, BONUS EDITION
“Yeah, playing your ass off.” — Texas co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Major Applewhite, when asked if an offensive identity had emerged for the Longhorns.

HE SAID IT, LES MILES EDITION
[See extended version below]

PHOTO OF THE WEEK
As a huge fan of NASCAR, count me among those who were absolutely thrilled with the reports that a future Tennessee-Virginia Tech game will be played at Bristol Motor Speedway.  Having been to that short track — the August night race should be on any sports fan’s bucket list — I can see exactly how and why both the track and the schools would want to play in the modern-day motorized Colosseum.  Have you wondered, though, what it will look like?  Thanks to @NeylandStadium, we have a little perspective:

Bristol Neyland

That, folks, is Neyland Stadium sitting inside the .533-mile Bristol Motor Speedway.  And that, folks, is freaking spectacular, even as I understand that some/most of the sight lines and vantage points won’t be optimal compared to playing in a stadium designed for football.

That said, I absolutely cannot wait to see — and possibly be a part of — that atmosphere.

Oh, and before you ask, no, ball carriers won’t be allowed to only make cuts to the left in that game.

SAY WHAT?
For the first time in the football program’s storied history, Alabama had a 300-yard passer (AJ McCarron‘s career-high 359 yards) and two 100-yard rushers (T.J. Yeldon, 16-124-2; Kenyan Drake, 14-106-2) in the same game.

TRUE STORY
From the Clemson Sports Information Department: Clemson’s defense held the nation’s leading rusher in Andre Williams to just 70 yards rushing and a 2.9 yards-per-carry average. He had entered the game averaging 153.6 rushing yards per game and 5.8 yards per carry.

FOR STATISTICAL PURPOSES ONLY

— Thanks to losses by Michigan, Oklahoma and Stanford, there are now 14 teams at the FBS level with no losses this season.  The ACC has the most unbeatens at this juncture with three (Clemson, Florida State and Miami), while the Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC have two apiece.  On the flip side, and with UMass dropping still winless Miami (Ohio), there are eight teams remaining who have yet to win a game in 2013.  Two of the Unfortunate Octet reside in the American Athletic Conference.

Boston College v Clemson— Clemson’s Tajh Boyd threw for 334 yards in the close win over Boston College to become the all-time leader in passing yards in Clemson history with 9,836 yards. He also moved in to fourth place in ACC history in the same category and into second place in carer 300-yard passing games (14).

Brett Hundley passed for 409 yards and three touchdowns to help unbeaten UCLA to a 37-10 win over Cal.

— Stanford wide receiver Ty Montgomery accounted for 296 all-purpose yards: 160 on kickoff returns, 131 receiving and five rushing.

— Jonathan Gray rushed for 123 yards and Malcolm Brown for 120 in Texas’ win over Oklahoma; it marked the first time UT has seen two players go over the century mark against OU.

— Washington’s Bishop Sankey, who entered the game fourth nationally in rushing yards per game at 146.4, rushed for 164 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to Oregon.

— Louisiana Monroe’s Isaiah Newsome became just the second player in Sun Belt Conference history to return two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game. The senior also broke the SBC record for interception return yardage in a single game with 146.

— Playing in place of the injured Baker MayfieldDavis Webb threw for 415 yards and three TDs in leading Texas Tech over Iowa State 42-35.

David Fales passed for 431 yards and three touchdowns in San Jose State’s 34-27 win over Colorado State.

— Coming off a concussion, Pittsburgh’s Tom Savage was sacked eight times in the loss to Virginia Tech.

— Utah’s win over No. 5 Stanford was the Utes’ first-ever over a team that entered the game ranked in the Top Five.  It was also the program’s first win over a team in the Top 10 since 1973.

— Florida extended its streak of holding SEC opponents under 20 points to 13 straight games against LSU, the longest in the conference.  Unfortunately, while the Gators held the Tigers to 17, they were held to six in the loss.

— Very enlightening stat from Jon Solomon of al.com: the past 14 games, Auburn has started five different quarterbacks.  Alabama has started three different quarterbacks the past 80 games.  Speaking of the Tigers…

— Auburn rolled up a school-record 712 yards of total offense in the Tigers’ 62-3 win over FCS-level Western Carolina.  Included in that total was 511 yards rushing on 43 carries, with nine different players credited with carries.

— Michigan State came into its game against Indiana as the No. 1 rush defense in the country, giving up an average of 51.2 yards per game; on the fourth play from scrimmage, the Hoosiers’ Tevin Coleman raced 64 yards right up the gut for a touchdown.  The rest of the game, however, the Spartans allowed just 28 yards on 26 carries in the 42-28 win.

— USF hasn’t scored an offensive touchdown the last two games… and have won both of those contests.  They are the first team ever at the FBS level to pull that trick in back-to-back weeks.

— Northern Illinois has now won 23 straight games at home, the longest such streak in the country.

— In a shout-out to the FCS, Fordham is 6-0 for the first time in a staggering 83 years.

IN CLOSING…
Les Miles
has, how shall we say it, a very unique and special relationship with the English language.  As the latest — and one of the best — example of that relationship, we leave you with the following transcript courtesy of CoachingSearch.com — the video’s HERE — in which Miles responds to a reporter stating that Florida was the hammer and LSU was the nail last season, with the roles being reversed this year.  Enjoy, and good night y’all:

“I’ve got a question for you. It was a 14-6 game. We played our asses off. How anybody could pick the hammer and the nail, when in fact, that hammer or nail, we catch a ball down there, we’re fixing to take the lead, and we turn it over. Explain to me how Kevin Minter, who set the damn near career tackle record in that game, how anybody could say hammer and nail?

“I can tell you right now, here’s what happens: Two very quality teams take the field and compete like a son of a bitch for victory. You know what? It’s not a hammer and a nail relationship. It’s an opportunity for an opponent to be equal and to raise their level of play in such a fashion that they win. That’s how this thing works. In fact, you respect the opponent. He’s not the hammer and he’s not the frickin’ nail, OK? He’s the opponent. You understand?

“I’m just letting you know, I resent that. I resent the fact that suddenly, we were nail, you got it? Honest to Pete. We were a pretty good team last year. I thought we played like a son of a bitch in that stadium. I’m just letting you know, I felt differently than the nail, so you know.”

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After leaving Irish for WMU, Anthony Rabasa leaves Broncos too

Wake Forest v Notre Dame Getty Images

As it turns out, Anthony Rabasa‘s stay in Kalamazoo was an extremely brief one.

Rabasa had transferred into the Western Michigan football program July 30, P.J. Fleck announced at the time.  Less than four weeks later, Fleck confirmed that Rabasa has decided to leave the Broncos and head back to his home in Miami.

From the sounds of it, the defensive lineman is giving up football entirely.

“He got here and he realized he wanted to move on with his life,” Fleck said. “We support him 100 percent. He’s a great kid. It’s just that football here wasn’t meant to be for him. He wants to head back down to Miami and start a career, which I don’t blame him for. He was in a battle here against some guys that are playing well.”

As a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, Rabasa would’ve been eligible to play immediately in 2015.

A three-star member of the Irish’s 2011 recruiting class, Rivals.com rated him as the No. 11 weakside defensive end in the country and the No. 54 player at any position in the state of Florida. After taking a redshirt as a true freshman, he played in two games in 2012 and five in 2013.

He didn’t see the field at all for the Irish in 2014.

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Wolverine DT Bryan Mone likely lost for season with broken leg

Michigan v Indiana Getty Images

In the run-up to Jim Harbaugh‘s first game as head coach at his alma mater, Michigan has forced to deal with a significant health issue along its defensive line.

Harbaugh confirmed during a press conference earlier in the day that Bryan Mone sustained a broken bone in his lower leg during a recent practice session.  Harbaugh labeled the injury as “long-term,” intimating that the defensive tackle will likely be sidelined for the entire 2015 season.

It was a freak play,” Harbaugh said. “I’ve never seen it before in a practice or games.”

And just how did the freakish occurrence transpire? From mlive.com:

After Michigan’s defense blocked a field goal, Mone rolled out and attempted to block for Jabrill Peppers on a return attempt when his leg was rolled up, resulting in a broken bone in his leg.

Mone appeared in 12 games as a true freshman last season, making one start. He was projected to rotate at nose tackle this season.

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Five-star signee, Gators’ likely starting LT set to undergo surgery

Martez Ivey

On the same day Florida revealed that, as expected, they will go with two quarterbacks in the opener, they also revealed that one of the players who would’ve been charged with protecting them very well might not be available.

Prized 2015 recruit Martez Ivey has been dealing with an unspecified leg injury that dates back to his high school days.  The injury progressed to the point where medical intervention was necessary, with head coach Jim McElwain confirming that the offensive lineman will undergo arthroscopic surgery Friday.

With the season opener against New Mexico State nine days away, there’s no timetable for a return.

“This morning, Martez came in with a sore leg and we went and had it looked at,” McElwain said. “There was something existing there. We’ll get him in there and scope that tomorrow morning. Found a preexisting thing that was kind of bothering him. We’ll get that cleaned up.

“I have no idea exactly when his return will be. … He’ll be back. I don’t know how quickly or anything yet. But it’s not. … it doesn’t appear to be a season-ending thing or anything like that.”

The good news for UF is that, after the opener, they have games against East Carolina and Kentucky before its first “real” test of the season against Tennessee Sept. 26.  That game begins a stretch of five straight games against teams currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25.

The 6-5, 302-pound Ivey was one of the highest-rated recruits in the country last season, with Rivals.com rating the five-star lineman as the No. 1 tackle in the country; the No. 2 player at any position in the state of Florida; and the No. 4 player overall.  He’s been working with the first-team offense and had been widely expected to be the starting left tackle when the season opened.

(Photo credit: Rivals.com)

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NCAA denies Ishaq Williams’ appeal, won’t play for Irish in 2015

Ishaq Williams AP

As it turns out, Notre Dame won’t have Ishaq Williams on the field this season after all.

That much was confirmed by Brian Kelly, with the Irish head coach announcing Thursday that Williams’ appeal to the NCAA that would’ve allowed him to play in 2015 has been denied.  Williams did not attend classes at ND or any other institution during the spring semester, leading in part to the NCAA issue.

That’s how Williams’ situation differed from KeiVarae Russell‘s.  Russell attended classes during that same period, and, after re-enrolling in school in late May, was cleared by the NCAA earlier this month to play in 2015.

Williams had been formally readmitted to Notre Dame around the same time as Russell, and Kelly seemed mildly optimistic the player would be back on the field this year.

Williams and Russell were suspended for the entire 2014 season because of the findings rendered in an academic fraud investigation. Five players were initially suspended, with only safety Eilar Hardy playing at all in 2014. Bowling Green announced late last month that Hardy had transferred into its football program.

The defensive lineman had played in 24 games the two seasons prior to his suspension and was expected to be a starter in 2014.  Had he been cleared by the NCAA, he would’ve been a significant contributor in the Irish’s line rotation.

As for Williams’ immediate future…

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‘Neck instability’ sidelines starting Vols S LaDarrell McNeil indefinitely

Alabama v Tennessee Getty Images

A suspension to one of Tennessee’s most productive offensive players wasn’t the only negative news coming out of Knoxville Thursday.

On the same day Pig Howard‘s one-game suspension was announced, head coach Butch Jones also revealed that LaDarrell McNeil will be sidelined indefinitely for what’s being described as ‘neck instability.”  Jones acknowledged that the safety could miss an extended period of time because of the issue.

“LaDarrell McNeil, this one came kind of out of nowhere,” Jones said. “Very, very unfortunate. I feel for him. He’s had some neck instability there, so he’s undergoing further examination. But he will be out an extended period of time, and it could be a lengthy period of time.”

247Sports.com‘s Wes Rucker writes that “Jones said McNeil’s ‘life after football’ was going to be the program’s priority,” adding that “[c]oaches using phrases like that can be an ominous sign for a player’s future on the field.”

Whether the senior defensive back will be sidelined temporarily or permanently, it will serve as a huge blow to the Vols’ defense.

The past three seasons, McNeil has played in 36 games. He started 31 of those contests, including 24 the past two seasons.

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Pitt loses RB Rachid Ibrahim to season-ending Achilles injury

Rachid Ibrahim, Kendall Fuller AP

An experienced member of Pittsburgh’s backfield has been put on the shelf courtesy of a non-contact injury.

First-year head coach Pat Narduzzi confirmed Wednesday that Rachid Ibrahim sustained an injury to his Achilles tendon in “one of those freak accidents that happens.” The injury, which occurred earlier this week, will sideline the running back for the entire 2015 season.

While he won’t have a concrete impact on the field this season, Ibrahim is already doing what he can to have an impact off of it.

He was choked up shortly after they told him what it was and what the recovery time was,” running backs coach Andre Powell said. “That afternoon, he was in meetings and he was talking in meetings and communicating with the young kids. He’s tough, he’s a leader, and he’ll fight through it.”

Used mainly as a third-down, change-of-pace back behind reigning ACC Player of the Year James Connor, Ibrahim was fifth on the team with 263 yards rushing last season, although his 8.0 yards per carry were tops on the team.  He also had 11 receptions for 73 yards coming out of the backfield.

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Erstwhile Irish RB Greg Bryant says he’s reopening recruitiment

Purdue v Notre Dame AP

It appears that Greg Bryant has all but closed the door on a return to South Bend next year.  Or any year after that, for that matter.

Earlier this month, and after he was suspended for the first four games, it was confirmed that Bryant had been declared academically ineligible and wouldn’t play at all in 2015.  While head coach Brian Kelly stated Bryant would be , the running back’s father stated that, even as he would be returning to classes at the school, he wouldn’t be reporting for summer camp.

However, the school part won’t come to fruition as Bryant posted on Instagram that he participated in his first practice Thursday at ASA Miami, a junior college in Florida and is coached by a former Notre Dame staffer.

Additionally, Bryant stated that he has decided to reopen his recruitment.  While that doesn’t necessarily preclude a return to the Irish, it appears he will be looking in other directions to restart his FBS career in 2016.

Below is his complete social media missive.

Had my first practice with my new team ASA Miami today and it went great! They gave me a opportunity to wear #1 this season! I’ll be keeping everyone updated with highlights and games. Opening up my recruitment so my next move will be my best move. Kinda feel like HIGHSCHOOL again getting offers and everything hahah. Highlights coming soon.

Last season as a true sophomore, Bryant’s 289 yards rushing were good for second on the team. Bryant was a five-star member of the Irish’s 2013 recruiting class and was rated as the No. 3 back in the country.

If he returns to the FBS level next year, Bryant would have two years of eligibility remaining.

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Dismissed by UNLV, ex-‘Bama RB Altee Tenpenny heads to FCS

Virginia Tech v Alabama Getty Images

Altee Tenpennyparted ways” with Alabama this past January, ultimately moving on to UNLV four months later.  Now, the running back is working on his third football program in the last eight months.

Earlier this month, Tenpenny was dismissed from the Rebels for violating unspecified team rules. Tenpenny would’ve been forced to sit out the 2015 season to satisfy NCAA transfer rules, but now he won’t even get the chance to restart his collegiate career with UNLV in 2016.

“It’s unfortunate, but we’ve got plenty of guys,” first-year Rebels head coach Tony Sanchez said at the time of the dismissal. “The young guys look fantastic. That had nothing to do with (the dismissal). At the end of the day, rules are the rules.”

Where he will get his chance to start over is at Nicholls State, which al.com is reporting is Tenpenny’s new college football home. Because the Colonels play at the FCS level, Tenpenny would be eligible to play immediately in 2015.

Tenpenny was a four-star member of the Tide’s 2013 recruiting class, rated as the No. 8 back in the country; the No. 1 player at any position in the state of Arkansas; and the No. 53 player overall by Rivals.com. Despite that impressive recruiting profile, Tenpenny didn’t contribute more than a couple of cents during his brief stay in Tuscaloosa.

In two seasons with the Tide, Tenpenny totaled 218 yards on 48 carries in a backfield that’s loaded with more four- and five-star talent than any in the country.

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Shad Thornton, NCSU’s leading rusher, hit with two-game suspension

Tyler Hunter, Shadrach Thornton AP

In what’s become an annual tradition in Raleigh, North Carolina State’s top running back has once again found himself in his coach’s doghouse.

Dave Doeren announced Thursday that Shadrach Thornton has been suspended for the first two games of the 2015 season.  The head coach declined to go into detail, allowing only that the issue responsible for the situation occurred six months ago.  The Raleigh News & Observer writes that “[t]he only outstanding legal charges against Thornton are minor traffic infractions.”

Because of the suspension, the senior back will miss the opener against Troy and the Week 2 matchup with Eastern Kentucky. He’ll return for the following week’s game at Old Dominion.

Thornton has led the Wolfpack in rushing each of the last three seasons, with his totals increasing from 694 yards to 798 to 907 last season. Earlier this month, he was named first-team All-ACC.

However, he’s had a hard time staying in the coaching staff’s good graces. In 2013, he was suspended for the opener after being charged with violence against a female. He was indefinitely suspended in December of that year for another run-in with the law, and reinstated in August of last year.

UPDATED 1:26 pm. ET: And now we have the alleged reason behind Thornton’s suspension.

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Vols suspend top receiver Pig Howard for opener vs. Bowling Green

Alton Howard, Cody Riggs AP

Tennessee’s lifting of the curtain on the 2015 season just got a little more interesting, at least offensively.

Thursday afternoon, head coach Butch Jones revealed that Alton “Pig” Howard has been suspended for the opener against Bowling Green.  The only reason given was unspecified violations of team rules, although Jones did allow that the issue that triggered the suspension dates back several months.

The wide receiver will be eligible to return for the Week two matchup with No. 19 Oklahoma.

The past two seasons, Howard has led the Vols in receiving with 54 and 44 receptions in 2014 and 2013, respectively.  He accounted for 1,006 receiving yards in that span, and has also scored a pair of rushing touchdowns.

Howard’s suspension isn’t the only situation UT is being forced to deal with at the position, either.

Croom caught 21 passes for 305 yards and four touchdowns last season, the latter total tied for second on the team.  Perry was a three-star member of the 2015 recruiting class.

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Ohio the new home for ex-Iowa RB C.J. Hilliard

Advocare V100 Independence Bowl AP

When it was announced this past weekend that Cincinnati native C.J. Hilliard would be transferring from Iowa, the stated reason for the departure was a desire by the player to move closer to home.

In the end, that’s exactly what the running back did.

Earlier this week, head coach Frank Solich confirmed that Hilliard had transferred into his Ohio football program.  To satisfy NCAA transfer rules, Hilliard will be forced to sit out the 2015 season.

Hilliard will have three years to use three years of eligibility beginning in 2016.

“He’s with us now, and will be on our football team,” Solich said. “It’s good to have him aboard.”

A three-star member of the Hawkeyes’ 2014 recruiting class, Hilliard was rated as the No. 55 player at any position in the state of Ohio. He took a redshirt as a true freshman last season.

(Photo credit: Iowa athletics)

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CFT 2015 Preseason Preview: ACC Predictions

Clemson at Florida State

The ACC is starting to gain some confidence as a conference based on success in recent seasons. Florida State won a BCS title and Clemson defeated Ohio State in the Orange Bowl two postseasons ago. Last year the Seminoles were invited to the College Football Playoff and Georgia Tech topped the SEC’s Cinderella team from Mississippi State in the Orange Bowl, and Clemson smacked Oklahoma up and down the field in the Russell Athletic Bowl. The ACC will work the numbers to their liking to prove they are among the elite power conferences right now, but the numbers can just as easily tell a different story as well. Regardless, things look to be lining up for a fun season in the ACC with Clemson a preseason favorite of many, Florida State likely to remain in the hunt and Louisville proving to be a tough out. And then there is the ACC Coastal Division, where mediocrity across the division makes for another wide-open division race this fall.

Let’s put my money where my mouth is and go on the record with some predictions for the ACC this season. Feel free to hold me accountable at the end of the season when these surely go wrong.

ATLANTIC DIVISION

1. Florida State (Last year: 13-1, lost to Oregon in College Football Playoff semifinal)
Florida State has entered the stage of program development where it is appropriate to suggest the program is reloading, rather than rebuilding. The Florida State offense returns just three starters from last year’s squad, but it does add Notre Dame transfer quarterback Everett Golson. With Dalvin Cook recently being found not guilty of battery charges, he should remain a featured asset in Florida State’s offense . Getting at Louisville in Tallahassee will be key, but the road game at Clemson could prove difficult. I have Florida State, Clemson and Louisville all ending the season with identical division records and splitting game sin the three-way head-to-head. This one comes down to the 27th ACC division tiebreaker, which may end up in Florida State’s favor when all is said and done.

2. Clemson (Last year: 10-3, beat Oklahoma in Russell Athletic Bowl)
The Clemson Tigers are returning perhaps the top quarterback in the conference with Deshaun Watson. Many are already pegging him as a strong Heisman Trophy contender, and having one of the top wide receiving units in the ACC will certainly help his case. The offensive line returns just two starters from last season though, and the entire offense has just four returning starters. The defense is in even more of a shaky ground with a pair of starters back in 2015. But place some trust in Brent Venables to have the defense up to speed enough to work things out along the way. An early Thursday night game at Louisville could be tricky, and the final game of the regular season at South Carolina is rarely easy. But Clemson gets Florida State at home in Week 10, by which most of Clemson’s concerns could very well have been put to rest.

3. Louisville (Last year: 9-4, lost to Georgia in Belk Bowl)
Another team that has a bunch of starters to replace, Louisville returns just seven starters from last season’s team. And things could very well get off to a bumpy start with Auburn in the season opener and Clemson just a couple of weeks later. But I think they manage to split those games, winning the important ACC Atlantic Division match-up on Thursday night in Week 3. The addition of defensive end Devonte Fields should be a really good addition to the defensive line. Louisville’s defense should be very good, and perhaps one of the best in the ACC, but the secondary will have to step up and make some plays if Louisville is going to make the kind of noise I expect from them this season.

4. Boston College (Last year: 7-6, lost to Penn State in Pinstripe Bowl)
Boston College is going to be one of those teams that gives opponents a tough game, but ultimately will not have enough offense to make the Eagles any serious threat in the ACC. The defense can hold its own, but Steve Addazio has just three returning starters this season. None of them are on the offensive line. I suspect Boston College will try trusting the running game with Jon Hilliman capable of going for 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. Things may very well improve at Boston College as the season progresses, but there is a brutal stretch that includes back-to-back road games at Clemson and Louisville and that is followed by a home game against Virginia Tech. Playing Notre Dame in Fenway Park late in the year should be interesting as well. Boston College should have what it takes to go bowling, and a return trip to the Pinstripe Bowl may not be unlikely.

5. North Carolina State (Last year: 8-5, beat UCF in St. Petersburg Bowl)
North Carolina State is a team many people think is capable of making some noise in the ACC this season, and they very well could. The reason is the Wolfpack return seven starters on offense and seven more on defense. If experience is the key, no team in the ACC Atlantic Division has more of it heading into the 2015 season. There is not one thing NC State does exceptionally well, but they are pretty well-rounded in all areas of the game. Jacoby Brisset is back to start at quarterback, after helping the team improve dramatically last season. Now we will see if he is capable of taking NC State to the next step forward. The Wolfpack should get off to a good start with a favorable schedule, but I’m seeing some bumps in the road once they get into ACC play. NC State gets Louisville and Clemson at home, which is good and easily a recipe for potential upset alerts. I still will go with the favorites for now.

6. Syracuse (Last year: 3-9)
It looks to be a long season at Syracuse. The move to the ACC has not shown much improvement in the recruiting game under Scott Shafer, who could very well be coaching for his job this season. Syracuse could get off to a quick 3-0 start this season, but even that might be difficult. Then LSU comes to the dome in Week 4. Syracuse will get a bye after the big game with the LSU Tigers, and a road trip to USF comes after that, but then ACC play resumes and Syracuse’s next win may not come until 2016 at that point.

7. Wake Forest (Last year: 3-9)
If you thought Syracuse had it rough, take a look at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons will be a young team in 2015, giving head coach Dave Clawson some more expected growing pains this fall. Wake Forest could get off to a 2-1 start with wins over Elon and Army (losing to Syracuse), but it will be a long stretch of demoralization after that. If Wake Forest manages to get to four wins to improve on last season’s win total, that should be considered a solid victory for Clawson and company.

COASTAL DIVISION

1. Virginia Tech (Last year: 7-6, beat Cincinnati in Military Bowl – they also beat Ohio State, in case you forgot)
Virginia Tech has the best defense in the ACC this season, and that should be enough to push the Hokies ahead fo the rest of the seemingly always up-for-grabs Coastal Division. The biggest question for Virginia Tech is whether or not the offense can avoid giving it away. Having Marshawn Williams back and healthy at running back should help. I look for the Hokies to give Ohio State a respectable fight in the Labor Day season opener, bu the Buckeyes leave with revenge after last season’s meeting in Columbus. From there, things look good for Virginia Tech with no Clemson, Florida State or Louisville on the schedule. Pittsburgh and UNC are both at home too. The schedule and defense should come in handy this season in Blacksburg.

2. North Carolina (Last year: 6-7, lost to Rutgers in Quick Lane Bowl)
No offense in the ACC returns as many starters this season than the North Carolina Tar Heels. A total of 10 starters are back for UNC, including a healthy Marquise Williams at quarterback, but how much will he have to carry the offense this season? In addition to being the leading passer, Williams is also UNC’s leading returning rusher from a year ago (788 yards, 13 touchdowns). I’d like to see others take some of the pressure off Williams to do everything if UNC is going to make a serious run to the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte. Looking at the schedule, I see real potential for a possible 7-0 start, but I also see the possibility of a rough finish to the season. That would seem to be the opposite of what happened last season after UNC closed on a hot streak to overcome a dismal start to the season.

3. Pittsburgh (Last year: 6-7, lost to Houston in Armed Forces Bowl)
I seem to have said this the past couple of years and I will do so once more; Why not Pitt? Pat Narduzzi takes over the Pittsburgh program and that should help lock things down on defense, with seven returning starters. The former Michigan State defensive coordinator also inherits some of the top offensive players in the ACC with wide receiver Tyler Boyd and running back James Conner, but it will be up to quarterback Chad Voytik to keep things moving consistently for the Panthers. If the Panthers can get off to better than a 2-2 start (as I predict), they could make a run in the wide open division.

4. Miami (Last year: 6-7, lost to South Carolina in Independence Bowl)
Another year, another season of wondering if this could possibly be the year Miami finally plays in the ACC Championship Game. They have yet to do so since leaving the Big East to provide the ACC with more football balance, and it looks as though this could be another season that sees early promise and hype ultimately fizzle out in an up-and-down second half of the season. They have the quarterback in Brad Kaaya, but do they have the ability to pull it together everywhere else? I have Miami getting out to a nice little 4-0 start before visiting Florida State in Week 6. From there it should be on-off-on-off for the Hurricanes. That could put head coach Al Golden on as hot a seat as possible at the end of the season.

5. Georgia Tech (Last year: 11-3, beat Mississippi State in Orange Bowl)
The formula for Georgia Tech’s success never seems to change, although the effectiveness of it seems to have mixed results. Paul Johnson‘s offensive style picked up 11 wins last season and gave Florida State one of many close calls last season in the ACC Championship Game. Playing in this wide open division, you can easily make a case for Georgia Tech to make a return trip to Charlotte at the end of the season, and a steady defense helps support that argument. I just think there are some tough battles ahead this season with a road trip to Notre Dame followed by ACC contests against Duke, North Carolina, Clemson, Pittsburgh and Florida State all in a row. That can be a tough stretch for the Yellow Jackets, as could the final two games of the season, at Miami and home against Georgia. Georgia Tech will still be a decent team, but they may skate on thin ice en route to the postseason.

6. Virginia (Last year: 5-7)
Virginia has had a rough stretch under Mike London, and this might be the final straw for the head coach if things do not show potential moving forward. Unfortunately for London, there may not be much progress shown with a three-win season. Yet, I have them somehow managing to avoid last place and staying ahead of Duke? Strange, I admit, but I think Virginia manages to win a pair of home games in ACC play, against Syracuse and Duke, and that is good enough to sneak just ahead of the Blue Devils in the standings. It may not, however, be enough to assure London a job in Charlottesville next season. Early games against UCLA, Notre Dame and Boise State (and William & Mary) might be rough to watch at times.

7. Duke (Last year: 9-4, lost to Arizona State in Sun Bowl)
Do not be fooled by a last-place finish in the ACC Coastal. As you no doubt have learned by now, I view this division as a wide-open race, and I still predict Duke will be bowl-eligible this year. That will be because Duke has a very favorable schedule this season with likely wins in non-conference play and no Clemson, Florida State or Louisville on the conference schedule. Yet I still see Duke struggling to find much consistency in conference play. David Cutcliffe has done a remarkable job in Durham, but this year’s team may be lacking in enough playmakers outside of safety Jeremy Cash to find enough wins to make a run at the division.

ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Florida State over Virginia Tech
After coming out on top of a clouded three-team tie in the ACC Atlantic Division, Florida State once again manages to win the ACC championship game for a fourth straight season. As will be the story all season, the Hokies defense keeps them in the game but the offense simply will not have enough firepower to get by a team with as much talent as Florida State. But will this Florida State team have done enough to convince the College Football Playoff selection committee it deserves a second straight invite to the postseason party?

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The Rosen One: Bruins hitch hopes to hyped QB cub as starter

Josh Rosen

If UCLA is to live up to the lofty post-Brett Hundley preseason expectations, the Bruins, at least offensively and initially, will do so with a very raw youngin’ under center.

Even as it involves a true freshman, Jim Mora confirmed what many had expected as he officially anointed Josh Rosen as his starting quarterback Wednesday night. Less than a year removed from high school, Rosen will make his first collegiate start Sept. 5 at home in the Rose Bowl against Virginia.

Rosen had been in a competition with redshirt juniors Jerry Neuheisel and Mike Fafaul, but it became apparent to the coaching staff throughout spring practice and on into summer camp that the trigger should be pulled on the young gun.

“At some point it just becomes apparent to you,” Mora said. “You get a gut feeling. You’ve seen enough. You say it’s time to make a decision and let’s go.”

When it comes to recruiting pedigrees, it’d be hard to find one more distinguished than Rosen’s.

A five-star 2015 recruit who enrolled early and went through spring ball, Rosen was rated as both the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country as well as the No. 1 player at any position in the talent-rich state of California. Overall, Rivals.com had the St. John Bosco product as the No. 2 player in the country regardless of position.

While Rosen’s FBS baptismal will come at home against a suspect Virginia, his feet will be really put to the fire by, after a Week 2 matchup against UNLV, a four-game stretch that opens with a defensively-stout BYU in the Rose Bowl followed up by back-to-back-to-back Pac-12 games against ranked opponents: at Arizona, home against Arizona State and at Stanford.

Even if Rosen struggles through that gauntlet, Mora has let it be known that this is the freshman’s offense and he doesn’t have to worry about looking over his shoulder.

“I made it very clear I’m a one quarterback type of coach,” Mora said. “I like to put a guy in that position, support the heck out of him, hope he has success, and rally around him if he’s struggling.”

(Photo credit: UCLA athletics)

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Ohio State loses Noah Brown for season with leg injury

Noah Brown

Locked and loaded for a run at a second consecutive national championship, Ohio State will enter the 2015 season a little less loaded at the wide receiver position.

Following up on reports of a “major” injury, OSU confirmed late Wednesday night that Noah Brown suffered an injury to his left leg during practice earlier in the day. While the specific nature of the injury wasn’t detailed, it was significant and serious enough that the sophomore receiver has already been ruled out for the entire 2015 season.

It’s believed that Brown broke his leg during the Wednesday practice session.  According to OSU’s release, he will undergo surgery Thursday to repair the damage.

Brown, who caught one pass last season, was expected to, at minimum, play a significant role as a third receiver and, potentially more substantially, earn a starting role in the Buckeyes’ receiving corps.  At least when it comes to the first game of the year, the road trip to Blacksburg — against the only team to defeat OSU last year — is pause for concern given the previously-announced attrition.

Earlier this offseason, it was announced that H-backs Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson, along with receiver Corey Smith, had been suspended for the opener against Virginia Tech.

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Personal issues cause Clemson starting DT D.J. Reader to step away from football

D.J. Reader

Sometimes there are some things more important than football, and sometimes that means you need to step away from the game to take care of those important issues away from the field. Whatever the case may be, that is what is happening with Clemson defensive tackle D.J. Reader. The starting defensive lineman is stepping away from Clemson’s football team for an undetermined amount of time, head coach Dabo Swinney announced Tuesday.

“D.J. Reader has decided to step away from football for a while,” Swinney said in a released statement. “He has some personal issues he has to deal with at this time. We are not sure when he will return. We will support him any way we can. This is no different than a player being lost for a period of time due to injury.”

The loss of Reader, for whatever amount of time, is a tough blow for Clemson’s defense. The senior was to be a starter this season after getting some starting experience last season. He enters this season having recorded 110 tackles and 4.5 sacks over the last three seasons. Clemson’s options to fill in the hole on the defensive line appear to be redshirt sophomore Scott Pagano and freshman Christian Wilkins.

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